Smart LED bulbs that can be controlled by a hub or smartphone app are no longer a new idea. That it is What’s new is how far this technology has come since its inception a few years ago. Also new: products like the Nanoleaf light panels, a system of interlocking LED panels that allow you to decorate with light, fundamentally change the concept of the light bulb.
Smart LED bulbs are not a commodity, but they are approaching maturity as far as the market is concerned. Today’s bulbs are more compact, much brighter, have better color rendering, and for the most part feature feature control apps that do more than ever and are easier to set up. Prices have dropped as well, with some no-name color tunable bulbs now available for less than $ 10 each. (Buyer attention: you get what you pay for.)
White LED bulbs are smart too
With their rainbow of hues and a myriad of party tricks, colored LEDs attract all the press in the world of smart lighting. It’s kind of fun, but the reality is that most of us will rarely find the need to turn all the lights in the house blue or red, unless it’s time to celebrate our team winning the World Series. Even then, you’ll probably want to put them all back to blank after the celebration.
White light is also important in its own right, as there is a lot of science today to show how various shades of white, with variations in color temperature: impacts on our psychological state. Cold light closer to blue has an energizing effect and is best in the morning. Warm light is relaxing and is best after the sun goes down. However, keep in mind that not all white LED smart bulbs can match the color temperature. Please check the specifications before purchasing.
White smart bulbs minimize the party features that are a staple of color tunable bulbs. On the other hand, white smart bulbs are less expensive than colored ones, making them more affordable to install in multiple rooms.
We have tested almost every color and white smart LED bulb on the market. You will find links to all of our reviews at the bottom of the page and we will update this story as new models are released.
Updated October 14, 2021 to add our review of Nanoleaf Lines, a modular smart lighting product with foot-long backlit “line lights” that glow in up to 16 million colors and fit into hexagonal connectors, allowing for a variety of customizable designs. The new Nanoleaf lines are certainly one of a kind, and with their colorful and stylish lighting scenes, the lines are sure to turn heads during your Zoom calls or your Twitch sessions.
Best Color LED Smart Bulb
Philips was one of the first players in this market and the company’s experience shows it. Physically, their Hue Color and Ambiance bulbs haven’t changed much since their introduction in late 2012, but the latest generation lasts much longer and the company has added a Bluetooth radio that avoids the need for the Philips Hue Bridge (but most smart homes the inhabitants will want the Bridge anyway). The Philips Hue ecosystem is the broadest and deepest in the industry, including not only light bulbs of every imaginable shape and size, but also indoor and outdoor luminaires, including the Philips Hue Calla pass light and the Philips outdoor spotlight. Hue Lily, which I really like.
LIFX is a very strong competitor in the smart lighting space and comes in a very close second in our roundup. LIFX no longer offers just the A19 and BR30 form factors, and we really like their unique LIFX + (which has a series of infrared LEDs that will help your home security camera see in the dark), but Philips still offers much more diversity in its ecosystem and third-party support universe.
Best White LED Smart Bulb
Our choice will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following this market. Philips dominates this space and is also our top pick for the best color LED smart bulb. The latest Hue bulbs can be controlled via Bluetooth or Zigbee (the latter requires Philips Hue Bridge), offer high-quality light, and are backed by a strong warranty. We received the BR30 form factor for our review, but the bulb is also available in A19, chandelier, and even with vintage-style LED filaments.
If you want a white-only smart bulb that doesn’t require a smart home hub, the LIFX Mini White is a great choice. While slightly dimmer than the full-size LIFX bulb, it produces 800 lumens equivalent to 60 watts.
Best budget smart bulb
The new Cree Connected Max line of smart bulbs is competitively priced and available in all the most popular form factors: A19, A21, BR30 and PAR38. The A19 Tunable White + Color Changing bulb we reviewed is just $ 10 and is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatible, so you don’t need to factor in the added cost of a hub to integrate it into your smart home. It is a very good product.
The best smart bulb to pair with a security camera
Most home security cameras are equipped with infrared LEDs to provide a night vision appearance. the LIFX + is equipped with its own infrared LEDs, which are active even when the bulb is switched off via software. Infrared light is invisible to the naked eye, but the LIFX + can bathe a room in it so your security camera can see more of the room and in more detail than with its own infrared LEDs.
Best LED strip light
The 2020 version of the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus LED is the only light strip that supports both Bluetooth and the more robust Zigbee protocol (if you’re willing to pay for the bridge required to connect it to your Wi-Fi network, of course). The very nature of LED light strips makes them delicate devices, and the first review product we received broke after a short period of time (the second holds up well). But we haven’t found a competing device that is as versatile as this one.
Smart bulb protocols and functions
Three control technologies continue to compete for leadership in the smart bulb market (Z-Wave is a major competitor in smart lighting, but you won’t find it in light bulbs, only in switches, plug-in modules, control panels, and smart devices). domestic hubs).
- Zigbee: Light bulbs using the popular smart home network protocol require a bridge to communicate with your home Wi-Fi network. This is the technology that Philips has adopted for its Hue line, but it is not the only one.
- Wifi: This kind of bulb communicates directly with your Wi-Fi router, no hub or bridge required. LIFX and TP-Link make excellent Wi-Fi smart bulbs, but neither company comes close to Signify’s Philips Hue line in terms of the depth and breadth of the Hue ecosystem.
- Bluetooth: These bulbs bypass your home network entirely and pair directly with your smartphone or tablet. As such, they cannot be controlled from outside your home. GE and several other manufacturers make Bluetooth bulbs, some of better quality than others. Signify has recently added Bluetooth radios to its Philips Hue line of smart bulbs, eliminating the need to implement the Philips Hue Bridge. Taking the bridge out of the equation reduces the total cost of implementation, but adds some limitations. You can read more in our review of the new Philips Hue bulbs.
Each of these technologies has pros and cons, so before trying to decide on a specific bulb, first try to determine which technology is right for you. If you want to connect your bulbs to a larger smart home system, like SmartThings or Nest, the Bluetooth bulbs are off. You can control more than one light bulb with your phone, but you cannot connect it to sensors or other systems within your home. You don’t like the idea of connecting a light bulb to your phone? A Wi-Fi bulb will work best for you, although you won’t have as many options as you’ll find with a Zigbee product.
Smart bulb or smart switch?
There is an important argument about the best way to install smart lighting, and two approaches are presented. You can go for expensive smart bulbs and control them all individually, or you can use cheap dumb bulbs and install smart switches to control all the lights on that circuit. Both approaches make sense – with smart bulbs, the biggest issue is cost, but there is also complexity to deal with. While bulbs can generally be grouped based on location, this is just as intuitive to manage as the bulb control app.
Smart switches, on the other hand, are much more complicated to install, to the point where some users may feel uncomfortable dealing with exposed wires and would rather hire an electrician. However, smart switches provide more flexibility in many installations.
Inhabited by years of flipping hardwired switches, many users (or their children) will instinctively use the wall switch to turn off lights when leaving a room. Once that happens, all the apps in the world won’t be able to turn the light back on until the switch returns to the on position. While this won’t be a problem if you install smart switches, they can’t change the color or color temperature of a light bulb.
That said, smart bulbs, regardless of technology, won’t be right for everyone. In particular, most of these bulbs cannot be dimmed via a wired wall switch (it interferes with the power going to the radio, rendering them useless). Some will fail even if there is an attenuator in the circuit and it is dialed at full power. the quality light from an LED bulb is probably much better.
The good news is that bulb prices are dropping, making it easier to get started with smart bulbs and less punishment if you find that a product doesn’t work for you. That said, we want you to start on the right foot. So without further ado, here are deep dives into the most valuable white and color LED smart bulbs on the market.
Our Latest LED Smart Bulb Reviews